TISHOMINGO – After suffering two playoff losses, including a season-ender, to Rattan a year ago, there was definitely a bit of revenge on the mind of 12th ranked Rock Creek on Thursday night in the Class 2A regional tournament.
The Mustangs definitely got it as they came back from a 16-point deficit to send 19th-rated Rattan into the losers’ bracket with a 72-66 win that moves Rock Creek into the regional championship Saturday night at Panama. With the win, Rock Creek improved to 21-5 on the season, while the Rams dropped to 18-8.
It was definitely a night of entirely different halves as it looked early on as if the Rams were going to run away with it.
Rock Creek controlled the tip and the ball never hit the floor en route to a layup by Darian James to put the Mustangs up 2-0 but Keegan Bohannon scored the next seven for Rattan and the Rams had a 16-10 advantage after one quarter of intense play.
The second quarter looked as if the game might be slipping away as Rock Creek misfired on several outside attempts and had no answer for the Rattan duo of Bohannon and Toche Taylor. The Rams opened the second stanza with five straight to push the lead to 11, and continued to build the cushion to 35-19 with only 2:36 left before halftime.
After head coach Rob Frederick called a Mustang time-out, Rock Creek answered with seven in a row, starting with a Davis Rogers’ trey from the top of the key, followed by a James driving layup and a pair of freebies from Christian McGowan to cut the deficit back to single digits.
Taylor briefly responded by scoring inside for Rattan before McGowan banged home his second three-pointer of the quarter for Rock Creek to narrow the margin to 37-29 at the half.
It quickly became an entirely different story after intermission as the Mustangs came out hot in the third frame and outscored Rattan, 22-10, for a slight 51-47 edge with only a quarter to play.
Rock Creek opened the third period with a jumper from James and Rogers found the net on a long ball. Shacona Vandenburg drew contact on a driving layup and completed the three-point play the hard way to claw within three at 40-37.
McGowan still had the hot-hand for the Mustangs, knotting the game with two consecutive from beyond the arc in the left corner, before Taylor connected on pair of freebies to give the Rams the lead for the final time.
Rock Creek scored the next six points off a Vandenburg putback and consecutive drives to the bucket by James and Sam Roper to give the Mustangs their largest lead yet at six. Bohannon’s two charity tosses made it 51-47 after three rounds of play.
Rattan continued to stay close in the fourth as Taylor warmed up from outside but the Mustangs had an answer every time and refused to let the Rams back in front.
The Mustangs’ lead swelled to nine on Rogers’ layup at the 5:50 mark but Taylor hit two straight deep treys with defenders everywhere, making it 67-66 with only 36 seconds to play, putting the crowd on edge.
Vandenburg saved a loose ball by tossing it nearly full court to Karson Dry for a layup and the foul. Dry canned the charity toss and added another pair at the foul line to seal the win and send Rock Creek on in the winner’s bracket.
“It was as entertaining as it could’ve been,” stated Frederick after his team’s win. “We came out and didn’t execute well in the first half, couldn’t find our rhythm. But we played with much more intensity in the second half. I’m proud of the way we fought back after being down early. These guys never give up.”
Dry led a balanced Mustang attack with 19 points with James close behind adding 16 tallies. McGowan went for 14 points including four treys, while Rogers also reached double figures with 10. Vandenburg chipped in seven points while Allen, Roper, and Austin Green notched two each.
Rattan was led by Taylor with 35 points while Bohannon had 25 in the losing effort.